Category Archives: Morning walk

December, also ambivalent

It's just the tool shed but it looks good with the first dusting of snow.

It’s just the tool shed but it looks good with the first dusting of snow.

We made it through hunting season in November and I don’t have to walk around looking like a pumpkin with legs anymore, and now we’re well into December and it all comes back to me, the things to love and the things to, well, not so much.

I like the snow and as I write this we’re expecting a decent dump starting late tonight.  I’m a night person so I often do a preliminary shovelling of my sidewalk (is it the only one here in Monroe?  Might be.) so that I don’t have to move huge amounts at any one time.  Snow falling is magic and December is usually about the first snows that everyone enjoys.  The snow in April is enjoyed by far fewer folks.

That co-dependant holiday is just around the corner and the millions who do the obligatory gifting are crowding the venues.  A bit closer to the day and you might wonder if no one ever eats  except two times a year if you dare the grocery store.  It took me a couple of times but if you live in Canada and go to someone’s house for Christmas dinner you still need to shop before the holiday anyway, because ALL the grocery stores are closed on Boxing Day.  Weird.

But my real love/not-so-much with December stems from my life with Mr. Ever-Vigilant/ Scourge of the Forest, Murphy.

Who me?  I'm a love puppy.

Who me? I’m a love puppy.

The temperature is cold enough that he has lots of energy to patrol and bark which it is in his nature to do.  The leaves are gone from the trees and the air is crisp and a good barking rhythm can carry across the valley quite nicely, reminding all residents of the woods that they might better avoid this particular stretch.

Until there is a good amount of snow on the ground to make the excessive (in my mind) patrolling difficult, nearly every day it is possible that Murphy will not return from our afternoon foray up the hill and instead will move back and forth barking.  I would take him in the truck to Northern Pond and do our walk there so he would have to finish with me but in December the ice is not necessarily frozen enough and I do not want to repeat the Reverse Lassie. (See my post, The Thanksgiving Song: https://garbethegoddess.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/the-thanksgiving-song/  for that story.)

Usually he waits for me to at least start the walk with him but today when I came out he was already in full voice.  I started up the hill directly because he was already too close to the neighbour who doesn’t like him patrolling and never forgets an infraction.  I try to get ahead of where he is going so that we can meet in the woods but Murphy was already across the right of way and in the woods on the other side.  There is a loop trail on the neighbour’s property where we used to walk with permission until permission was revoked.  One too many times Murph opted to return in his own time and swing through their dooryard for a friendly chase of a cat if possible, alas.

So today I ran down the snow-covered upper part of the loop to get ahead of him.  I was just looking for the place where we used to cross a little stream when Murphy can running full tilt toward me.  He was all, hey! cool to meet you here! and I was all, what a surprise to find you here too!  I gave him a couple of cookies from my pocket and hooked him up.  He thoughtfully chose to backtrack my trail since it’s good not to go right by the neighbour’s house and give her more fuel for the stories.  ( She never forgets an episode and still uses as an example something he did when he was a juvenile.)

Across the right-of-way we followed my trail up the hill above our garage.  With the little bit of snow it’s hard to see the lay of the ground but traction is not too bad because the moisture from the ground has frozen so some steps are into eight or so inches of ice crystals which gives some traction.  Still there are rocks and piles of branches and some ice so it’s good for the balance to walk such uneven terrain.

So far, I’ve managed to bring him home every time he’s gone on barkabout, but it interrupts my work and I worry that he might get shot by one of those Maine hunters who feel entitled to the deer and erroneously think Murphy threatens that or that he might end up in a trap somewhere where I can’t find him.

Note, the day after:  The perfect winter storm started late last night.  We woke up to 8 inches and I shovelled my way out to the driveway, then barefooted (no snowshoes) down the unploughed driveway with dog and shovel to clear a walkway for my neighbour who has a dodgy heart.  ( Her heart’s in the right place, it’s just not up to heavy physical exertion .)  We walked down the road that the snowplough had done already and the reason I didn’t wear snowshoes.

To get the full information Murphy buries his nose in the snow,

To get the full information Murphy buries his nose in the snow,

So it’s all good now.  Murphy  and I love to run downhill in the snow, me with snowshoes.  He steals my mitten and flips it into the air, a playful moment for a usually serious guard dog.  Snowshoes were needed for the walk up the hill but not so much that Murphy couldn’t offer to break trail for me, but just enough that he came home from the walk and now is out on his long lead, letting the nearby world know that this hill is guarded, go elsewhere if you are a ne’er-do-well.  Today December is good.

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Necessity-inspired creation

Early morning walk before the plow has been by

Whenever my morning begins, it starts with a cobweb clearing walk down the dirt road on which I live, accompanied by my Great Pyrenees Cross, Murphy.  This is a part of our routine that I established early in our association to substantiate my authority.  We always walk using the leash at that time, so I (mostly) determine where and at what speed, and he is mostly compliant by necessity.  He gets a longer afternoon walk (or walks, if he plays his cards right and persuades Ann to take him before I do) off-leash so he can roam freely and run in the woods and he’s free to go wherever between times.  This is my compromise for his basic nature which is to be a highly predatory guard dog.  Lucky for Murphy we have acres of woods and all the closest neighbours are out of sight and downhill.

We used to do the early walk up the road to the end of the town-serviced part, then into the neighbours’ woods where I let him off-lead.  Unfortunately, he wouldn’t always meet me at the end of the loop to leash up again, and would find his own way home, which he knew very well. This way would sometimes lead him through the neighbours’ yard where he would give a quick chase of the cat if it was in the yard, and he might loom at the ninety-plus-year-old woman who lives there, if she happened to be at the door.  This behaviour resulted in banishment from those woods, so now we go down the road in the other direction, most of the way to the main road, and return.  It’s not more than a mile but it can take as long as forty-five minutes because of Murphy’s nature.

In Murphy’s mind we are on morning patrol, checking the neighbourhood for any untoward activity.  Doing any ‘business’ is not a major part of his agenda.  He is checking out who has been by in the night and what is going on downhill from our domain.  So a walk with Murphy involves a lot of standing around while he sniffs with great particularity and then maneuvers to get the perfect angle so as to leave his mark.  The first half can go faster but the return is excruciatingly slow.  This is probably exacerbated by the fact that by the turnaround point I’ve woken up and figured out what my day will entail and I’m ready to get on with the making of porridge and coffee so I can get the rest started.  So my pace quickens as his slows.  He always falls behind ( my other neighbours have commented that it looks like I’m dragging him on the walk) and I’m constantly exhorting him to ‘come on, let’s go.’  If I stop he will often sit in his upright guard dog position and begin to actively sift through all the scents coming from all directions.

He really is not happy walking and sniffing and I get bored standing around so last summer I started bringing my iPod Touch with me so I could read while we stood.  What do you call a walk that is mostly not walking?  This has improved things.  I’m not constantly pulling him and nagging to move and what’s not to like about reading while walking?

Now it’s winter and my fingerless gloves are not enough in the sub-freezing temps in the morning so I paused my other knitting projects to make some iPod mittens.  I just needed access to my thumbs to turn the pages, so I made these with a slit in the thumbs and then picked up stitches and knit a flap over the hole so that I won’t get any draft.  I can keep only one thumb out and tuck it in my mitt while I’m reading.  I thought of making it so that the whole thumb would flip off but I thought that might make it too easy and as a result, drafty, so that’s why this slightly odd, but functional style.

iPod mittens, Flying Geese pattern

I tried them out this week.  It was −10C for our morning walk.  I have a full length down coat and wool felt-lined pac boots so I can stand around all day and be warm.  We sauntered down the road, Murphy examining with great attention to detail and me reading.  At one point he stopped to pay attention to whatever scents were wafting up the hill toward us across a wild field.  I stopped and continued to read not really paying attention.  I might have stood there five or ten minutes; engrossed in a book, I lose track of time.  I finally noticed that we hadn’t moved in a while so I turned to look at Murphy and he was sitting, looking down the road from whence danger would come, the quintessential guard dog.  I burst out laughing.  Was I stopped for him, or he for me?  He looked at me as if to say, well, are you ready? And we resumed the walking part of the walk.

Just the tip of my thumb is all that I need to page my iPod